We often think of microbes as single cells that can be easily targeted by drugs, alternative medicine or our own immune systems. However, the reality is much more complicated. Many of these pathogens have evolved remarkably sophisticated ways to evade our best efforts at treatment.
Some of you may have heard of biofilms, especially if you’re familiar with Lyme Disease, and how they can protect pathogenic microorganisms from your immune system. Biofilms are structures that are formed naturally by many bacteria and fungi. They can make conditions like urinary tract infections, ear infections, and Candida overgrowth much more difficult to treat.
Today I’m going to explain what biofilms are, how they are used by Candida albicans, and exactly what they mean for your Candida treatment.
What Are Biofilms?
The traditional way of looking at a microorganism was to examine it in a laboratory. Various antibiotics, antifungals and other treatments could then be applied, and the results collated and shared. However, as effective as this methodology can be, it does not take into account what happens when large numbers of those microorganisms group together in the human body.
Research over the past 10-20 years has started to show that microorganisms behave very differently when grouped together. In fact, some treatments that might work very well on a single cell can be complete failures against a large, well-established population. In many cases, this is because of biofilms.
A biofilm is a polysaccharide matrix that acts as a protective structure for the microorganism. In effect, the pathogen can hide within it. By producing a biofilm, the microorganism creates a shield to protect itself from whatever your doctor and immune system can throw at it.
Biofilms can exist both inside and outside the body. Sometimes they can even be useful (there are a number of industrial applications), but for the most part they are bad news. Much of the research has looked at Candida biofilms on items like prosthetic heart valves, intravenous catheters, and hip replacements. However, biofilms are also part of the development of many clinical infections that develop in our bodies.
Candida albicans is the most common fungal biofilm found in hospitals, but it is also extremely difficult to treat. One study looked at the effectiveness of a group of antifungals (including prescription antifungals like Nystatin and Diflucan) against Candida biofilms. Researchers found that the antifungals were initially effective against Candida, but as the biofilm developed they became less and less effective. After 72 hours of biofilm development, the “C. albicans cells were highly resistant,” leading them to conclude that “drug resistance develops over time, coincident with biofilm maturation.” Other studies refer to “a near-total resistance to antifungal agents by biofilm-associated Candida.”
What are these biofilms made of? Well, another study found Candida biofilms to be comprised of 32% glucose. So Candida needs sugar not just to grow and reproduce, but also to create the biofilm that protects it from your immune system.
Supplements to Fight Candida Biofilms
A wide range of natural remedies can be used to destroy Candida biofilms. Many of these have been used in traditional medicinal practices for centuries, but have also recently been clinically tested as effective solutions.
Oregano is one of nature’s most powerful antifungal herbs. However, oregano oil – the concentrated form of oregano – is even more powerful. It’s been used in natural medicine throughout history, and has now been found to inhibit a variety of pathogens including fungal infections. This is largely due to its active constituent, carvacrol, which rich in concentrated phenols that attack pathogenic fungi. Oregano also harbors antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
One clinical study investigated the efficacy of oregano oil against pathogenic bacteria including multi-drug resistant microbes. Oregano oil showed significant anti-bacterial activity against 11 of these microbes, including four methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA. Most importantly, Oregano oil was found to effectively break down the biofilms formed by each of these pathogens (1).
In terms of treating Candida specifically, the powerful carvacrol constituent of Oregano oil has been found to inhibit a range of antibiotic resistant bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. At the same time, it has the ability to prevent these toxins from releasing harmful toxins, including biofilms (2).
Another major bonus is that Candida yeast doesn’t become resistant to oregano oil, which can happen with other anti-fungal agents.
Oregano oil supplements are generally available in capsule form at most health stores. Diluted oregano oil can also be taken orally.
Caprylic acid is the active antifungal constituent of coconut oil. As well as its many other health benefits, substantial research has suggested that caprylic acid has an ability to penetrate and eradicate persistent Candida biofilms.
A study published in Frontiers in Microbiology showed that a combination of caprylic acid and pectic acid (a soluble fiber in cell walls of certain fruits) was able to eliminate pathogenic biofilms within 60 minutes of exposure. Even more impressively, the caprylic acid was able to destroy the biofilms without causing harm to the surrounding healthy cells. As a result, the researchers suggested that caprylic acid may be used as an effective treatment against a number of infection-causing microorganisms (3).
As well as destroying the Candida biofilms, caprylic acid has been found to inhibit MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), as well as E. coli, Salmonella and P. aeruginosa bacteria.
While it’s easy to add coconut oil to your diet, it may be more efficient to take caprylic acid in concentrated supplement form.
Garlic is one of the most well-known seasonings in the world, and also one of the most celebrated natural medicines. Not only is garlic renowned for its potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, it’s an effective biofilm destroyer.
The allicin content of fresh garlic is a sulfuric compound that has powerful activity against both bacteria and fungi. Research has shown that it’s particularly effective against Candida biofilms, even those with increased resistance to other natural antifungal agents.
Interestingly, another study showed that fresh garlic extract is much more effective than garlic powder extract in treating Candida. Although dried garlic can eradicate Candida to some extent, fresh garlic provides a much broader activity against the morphology and growth of the Candida yeast. (4)
If using garlic as part of your Candida treatment regime, avoid cooking it for longer than five minutes as heat will destroy its therapeutic properties. It’s also better taken with a little healthy fat (such as olive oil or coconut oil) as crushed garlic can burn sensitive membranes. Like oregano oil, Candida is unlikely to develop a resistance to garlic, which makes it a promising option for long-term prevention.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is the supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. It’s required for replenishing the antioxidant glutathione. In cases where a natural antifungal isn’t able to break down the Candida biofilm on its own, NAC can speed up the process. NAC is a powerful biofilm disruptor that has been found to weaken and break down the biofilm matrix.
Studies have shown that NAC can reduce Candida albicans adherence by more than 32%. This is especially impressive when compared to pharmaceutical drugs such as ketoconazole, which typically reduce Candida growth by only around 25%. NAC is also found to have a more potent disruptive effect than ketoconazole (22-80.7%) on mature biofilms. (5)
NAC and ketoconazole are particularly useful when used together, showing total eradication of tough Candida biofilm. At the same time, NAC has been found to prevent further growth and replication of Candida, which is an important step in biofilm formation. It’s also able to change the texture of the biofilm, making it easier to break down.
It’s important to note that higher concentrations of NAC are more effective, as well as combining NAC with another antifungal. Most importantly, however, it appears that NAC is able to completely eradicate mature Candida biofilms in most cases.
NAC can be taken in capsule form, as an aerosol spray or in liquid or powder form. You can also find it in our recommended Liver Support supplement.
Lumbrokinases are a group of enzymes that have been isolated and created from various species of earthworms. These enzymes are then used to treat various health conditions, such as breaking down blood clots in cases of thrombosis. It works by reducing and then eliminating ‘sticky blood’, breaking down fibrin protein in the blood clot deposits that can form on the walls of blood vessels in people who have sticky blood.
Lumbrokinases are also proven biofilm disruptors which may be useful in treating Candida. Like other enzymes such as serrapeptase, lumbrokinase can be used as coatings on implants as a means of breaking down biofilms. So far, it has been effective in treating chronic strep throat and autism in small children.
More recently, research has suggested that lumbrokinases may be useful for breaking down the biofilms associated with Lyme disease. This has raised the possibility of treating Candida biofilms in the same way. More research on using Lumbrokinase for fungal infections is pending.
Breaking A Candida Biofilm
There is no simple way to destroy a Candida biofilm in your gut. For the most part biofilms do exactly what they are designed to do – protect the Candida albicans cells from your immune system. There is no magic pill we can take to eliminate a Candida biofilm. It takes time and application.
Biofilms are one of the main reasons why a Candida overgrowth is so hard to beat. A longstanding Candida overgrowth has had plenty of time to create biofilms in your gut, and (as I’ve shown above) these are very resistant to many of the treatments we can throw at them. The longer the biofilm has had to develop, the more resistant it will be to antifungal treatments.
This is why using antifungal drugs alone is often not enough to beat a Candida overgrowth. We need to adopt several different strategies.
Our Candida treatment plan, the Ultimate Candida Diet, uses several different elements to fight Candida. These include antifungals, probiotics, and a low-sugar diet. We also discuss the use of systemic enzymes, such as lumbrokinase, which have been shown to break down biofilms such as those created by Lyme, Candida, and other infections. Adding these systemic enzymes to your treatment can make your probiotics and antifungal therapies much more effective.
Used alone, these strategies will likely fail. But used together, they can be highly effective. The antifungals destroy the cell walls of the Candida; the enzymes break down the biofilms; the probiotics support your immune system and regulate the acidity in your gut; and the low-sugar diet deprives the Candida of the resources that it needs to grow. This combination of treatments is much more effective than using a single strategy.
Beat your candida in 60 days with this detailed 5-step program
If you're looking for a more comprehensive Candida treatment plan, check out the Ultimate Candida Diet program, written by Lisa Richards and Dr Eric Wood. This plan is based on the latest research into Candida Related Complex, and contains everything you need to know to beat your Candida overgrowth.